How To See Palestine: An ABC of Occupation

Q is for Qalqilya Checkpoint

Qalqilya checkpoint is called Eyal, as if it were a person. The Palestinians who have to pass by it every day as they go to and from work in Israel are not so fortunate. Habshe Yossef, a Palestinian activist, said quietly that the workers are 'treated like animals.' Just one in a system of at least 500 permanent checkpoints, Eyal filters people from the Palestinian city where unemployment is said to be close to 30% thanks to the Separation Wall. Because the city was enclosed by the wall, many farmers were cut off from their land. Now they work, if they can, in Israel.

To pass, you need a Palestinian ID, a magnetic ID card and a work permit. The permit is valid only for three months at a time and renewing them is hard. To be sure of getting through in time for work, people will begin queuing again at 2 a.m. to be well-placed when the checkpoint opens at six. It processes one person at a time. Checkpoints will 'close' if there are too many people. Around four thousand will go through. As a result, a market exists for those waiting, selling food, drink and cigarettes.
Travelers like myself can pass quite easily through checkpoints, although the casual way that Israeli soldiers carry their guns, pointing them at you, means that it is far from a relaxing experience. Nonetheless, each time we crossed we made sure everyone in the car agreed on the same story as to what we had been doing and where. I did not go through a pedestrian checkpoint like Qalqilya. But I was never asked any questions, as a person who looks 'Jewish' and has an American passport. An African American member of our group was interrogated three times at Tel Aviv Airport on his way home.

For people living in the 'West Bank,' permanent checkpoints like this are only part of the problem. So-called mobile checkpoints are permanent structures that are only staffed sometimes, so you never know when planning a journey if you will be stopped there or not. In addition, there are 'flying' checkpoints that can appear anywhere at any time. We observed Israeli police carrying out ID checks outside the Maale Adumim settlement, preparing people for the proposed permanent annexation of that giant settlement.

Just as African American scholars like Orlando Patterson have insisted that the goal of slavery was not cheap labor but the 'permanent violent domination of the natally alienated,' so too do the checkpoints reinforce such a domination. The brevity of the work permits makes it clear that the regime does not want anyone for their specific labor--there will always be labor because so many live in poverty. The goal here is make those living in a place they consider to be home to understand themselves to be strangers, alienated from birth. 

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